Malta is fast becoming a hub of creativity and innovation, and while that’s all well and good, no matter how sound your idea might seem at first, nothing beats testing out the hull before setting out to sail. The real market is an unforgiving place, so having an identical environment where you can test before shipping out means ironing out any issues prior to launch.
Enter the Technology Assurance Sandbox (TAS), created by the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA) and supported by the Ministry for the Economy & Industry and Tech.mt, which will ensure the correct nurturing of such technological solutions.
Developing solutions on innovative tech
So how exactly does the sandbox benefit startups? The first thing is that in the long run, it’s cheaper to amend a product or service during the development stage than post-launch. Since the testing will be overseen by the MDIA, by extension, you’re being vetted by the same authority that ensures you’re fully compliant with evolving EU regulations in the tech sphere.
This way, not only do you get seamless MDIA certification, but you’re also testing out with predefined control objectives as per international standards. There’s a residency of two years to test out your idea in the tech sandbox, which should be enough time to iron out any issues.
There’s also the element of cost. The cost is primarily two-fold; the first part relates to the administrative costs handled by MDIA. The second is the costs incurred by the applicant, with the MDIA Approved System Auditor of choice being able to conduct the assessments and other costs related to external consultants for assistance in addressing the gaps identified by the Systems Auditor.
For the MDIA TAS residents, the administrative cost component has been kept to a bare minimum, set at a one-time cost of €500 for a maximum residency duration of 2 years. As for the cost components related to the assessments conducted by the Systems Auditor and other consultancy related costs, the Authority is currently in discussions with other Government institutions to facilitate the subsidy of such costs.
The TAS also provides a level of flexibility for each individual applicant, proportional to a complex number of factors such as availability of employees and other financial resources, organisational priorities and field of innovation. This is encouraged, so much so that each applicant should define their own assessment milestones in the Residency Plan, which can adopt a custom approach in line with the individual requirements of the applicants.
So how does it work?
It’s all well and good talking about the testing, and compliance and getting your product or service market-ready. How will you get there, though? The TAS provides flexibility in selecting which control objectives shall be applied and at which stages within the residency, resulting in the seamless integration of the development plans of the applicant.
In TAS, the MDIA envisaged an innovative concept providing a safe environment for individuals and companies developing solutions on innovative technologies, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and critical systems, to enable the correct nurturing of such solutions in line with recognised standards.
After each phase, an assessment is done by MDIA-certified Systems Auditors, and this will keep on happening until the applicant is in line with all control objectives. Once everything’s in order, the applicant will be ready to apply for MDIA’s certification – which is the ultimate proof that the solution provides technological assurances.
Putting Malta on the map
One of the major appeals of the MDIA Sandbox, given its adaptable nature, is its ability to be used to attract developing solutions to be aligned to EU regulations which are still being discussed and finalised, namely the EU AI regulation and the EU Cyber Security Certification. Malta is positioned at the forefront of technology policy, already having Control Objectives in relation to AI and also Cyber Security.